January ended a long ass time ago, and that means it’s time to review Amboy in its entirety. I’ll start by saying that my journey with the cookbook has been so much fun. The recipes in it bring me back to good memories sharing the food of my friends and their families. That’s an experience I could really use during the pandemic, so I may be looking at this book through some rose colored glasses as a result.
We all know Alvin Cailan for his role on First We Feast’s Burger Show. He’s famous for his restaurant Eggslut. He’s started a fine meat purveyor with the same name as his cookbook. He’s done very well for himself, and there’s much to learn about the several stages of his career through the pages of Amboy. Wether it is a short article to begin a new section or the recipe itself, I find it to be very telling of the chef behind the food.
I took serious interest in his many lumpia recipes in the cookbook due to my own fond memories of the dish, and I find them to be the best look into the chef. A Filipino-American with a foot on either side of the line, and he’s finding middle ground to create tasty food that honors both sides of him. The cheeseburger lumpia will always be in my mind, and I’ll probably make them for my friends the next time they get their asses up north.
There are so many delicious things in this book to cook that I had absolutely no hope of getting to everything that I wanted to with the time that I had available to work on the book, and for that reason it’s going to be highly recommended to foodie friends of mine looking to change things up in the kitchen. The fact remains that it sometimes runs into the wall that we’ve experienced previously with Asian cornerstones: some ingredients may simply not be available without turning to our good friend Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
Eating Normal Recommends these recipes from Amboy:
And finally: Our ratings.
Accessibilit: 3 out of 5
Amboy suffers from the same problem that any Asian inspired cookbook suffers when you’re part of a more rural community: some ingredients just won’t be available without the use of Amazon. Even then, if you want to make lumpia, you’ll have to make your own wrappers if you don’t live near an Asian grocer that carries the frozen packages of lumpia wrappers. Standard egg roll wrappers that are sometimes available at basic supermarkets are not large enough. Very specific brands of soy sauce are called for to promote the flavor he’s going for: kikkoman won’t cut it according to his writing.
Difficulty: 4 out of 5
Amboy contains a variety of recipes for various levels of cooking experience, some of which are as simple as dressing a whole chicken in a packet of tamarind soup mix and roasting it to perfection. Some recipes are as hold as roasting a whole pig for lechon, which requires building your roasting pit as well as actually roasting the damn pig. That’s the beauty of the thing. There are things to aspire to as a cook, but there are also things you can achieve at any level.
Originality: 4 out of 5
Lucky Peach sits on my shelf filled with some recipes that I may have to pit against Alvin Cailan’s versions one day, but Amboy is not just a cookbook about adobo. This is a cookbook of his experiences spending summers in the Philippines and living an American life the rest of the year. There are things in here I can’t get anywhere else, and frankly, I’m not sure I’d trust anybody else to teach me how to make them. You can’t get someone else’s memories from another cookbook, and many of these recipes are built on fond memories.
Amboy is available now wherever cookbooks are sold. It is currently in stock on Amazon if you’re in a hurry. January was a great month for cooking. What’s next in March? Check back tomorrow.